Suspect in custody in connection to toy theft at Buffalo church

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Buffalo police have a suspect in custody in connection to $100 worth of gifts stolen from an East Side church. The toys, which were donated, were Christmas gifts for children of refugee families.

Police tell News 4 officers picked up 37-year-old Cecil Hollingsworth after a be on the lookout was issued.

As several people began to show up for mass at St. Lawrence Church in Buffalo Saturday afternoon, they noticed something was missing.

“I was appalled,” said Larry Bartos, a member of St. Lawrence Church.

The toy donation bin — that was filled — is now empty.  Those toys were going to be Christmas gifts for children of refugee families.

Buffalo police say someone stole the toys, about $100 worth, early Thursday morning right before mass.

“That takes a lot or nerve to come into a sanctuary of God for one thing,” said Bartos.

Officers say the church doors were unlocked. Church members say the doors were unlocked because of mass.

Larry Bartos says the church may need more security.

“We might have to hire guards our something just to be safe during mass. Unfortunately, our world has changed and it’s a scary place sometimes,” said Bartos.

There are security cameras outside of the church building, but it’s not clear if the person or people were caught on surveillance video.

Some church members say they won’t let this Grinch win and have already brought in new donations. Bartos says he plans to buy toys as well to make sure the refugee families still have a merry Christmas.

“And I’m sure other people will too when they hear this because we have a good community for that here,” said Bartos.

People can still drop off donations to the church. The goal is to deliver them to families in the next few weeks.

Bartos say while he’s disappointed in whoever did this, he’s also praying for them.

“God bless you and have a merry Christmas don’t do it again,” said Bartos.

Hollingsworth is charged with burglary, criminal possession of stolen property and larceny.

Stay with News 4 for updates on this developing story.

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